Limited Lifetime Warranty: Stories

Nance Van Winckel, Author University of Missouri Press $24.95 (159p) ISBN 978-0-8262-0922-1
Related by Martha, a girl who can ``hear tragedy coming, and . . . point the way to rescue,'' these 16 interwoven stories trace their narrator's unconventional path to becoming a farm-animal veterinarian in North Dakota. Throughout her life, Martha collects lessons: as a young girl in ``Apprentice,'' she learns to weave rags into rugs and thereby to ``make something from almost nothing''; meanwhile, a friend whose father is dying of cancer shows her that the best way to handle tragedy is to deal with it honestly and directly. Years later, in ``After My Heart,'' Martha, now training for ``a lifetime of messing with horses and stubborn old steer,'' learns how to accept the loss of a sick animal. The stories are so crammed with drama, however--a baby lost in a well; a boating accident in a river logjam; a sister who suffers brain damage--that sometimes the rush of events overwhelms the simple basics of storytelling. In ``Doghouse,'' the action shifts too sharply between a puppy on the mend, alien sightings by townsfolk and the invention of a gas-saving device. Though Van Winckel has assembled a set of striking characters, Martha's own rich life deserves more expansive treatment. Throughout, the heroine struggles to find appropriate responses to life's perplexing questions; and as she tells a little girl to whom she becomes a surrogate mother, ``Each of those answers is a long story unto itself.'' (June)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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